Evaluating the prevalence, content and readability of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) web pages on the internet.

Publication Date



Proc AMIA Symp. 2002; 672–676.


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is growing rapidly. As CAM is relatively unregulated, it is important to evaluate the type and availability of CAM information. The goal of this study is to deter-mine the prevalence, content and readability of online CAM information based on searches for arthritis, diabetes and fibromyalgia using four common search engines. Fifty-eight of 599 web pages retrieved by a "condition search" (9.6%) were CAM-oriented. Of 216 CAM pages found by the "condition" and "condition + herbs" searches, 78% were authored by commercial organizations, whose pur-pose involved commerce 69% of the time and 52.3% had no references. Although 98% of the CAM information was intended for consumers, the mean read-ability was at grade level 11. We conclude that consumers searching the web for health information are likely to encounter consumer-oriented CAM advertising, which is difficult to read and is not supported by the conventional literature.


Complementary Therapies, Comprehension, Internet


PMCID: PMC2244422